Our trip was to Newell, WV, home of the Homer Laughlin China Company, where Fiestaware dishes are made. In case you didn't notice, those dishes are made in the U.S.A., one reason I love Fiestaware. That, and they're pretty, too.
We were there for one of their tent sales. I've talked about and wanted to attend one of these for a long time, but there has always been the obstacle of distance. After thinking about it long enough, the lure of the tent sale made me forget about how far it is to West Virginia.
The tent was set up at the back of the factory. Parking is in a grassy field in the front of the factory. Attendees are handed a ticket as they enter the area. Once you have your ticket, you can get in line to wait your turn to go into the tent. On the opening morning of the sale the line was long. One of the security guards told us that some people camp out so they can be first in line.
From my experience at the sale, being first in line might have some small advantage, but it's not that important. The stock of items was replenished all throughout the day, and you never knew what might be brought out next. We shopped early the first day. After a late lunch, we went back for round 2 and found different items. On the second day of the sale the stock had changed again.
Once you get into the tent, you are provided with a shopping cart. Most of the dishes are dusty from storage. Some are more than a little dusty. Taking a dust cloth along is essential. It's important to dust the pieces off and check for flaws. Some of the pieces have visible flaws, others have none. It's kind of buyer beware when shopping the tent sale because there are no returns, but the prices are amazing!
I bought dinner plates, serving bowls, gusto bowls, platters, fruit bowls, pitchers and more. Everything is wrapped and boxed at the cash register, so it's travel ready when you leave. I drive a large SUV, and we packed it full. So what if we had to stash our luggage in the back seat?
Besides having a great time shopping, I picked up some trivia. Newell is the northernmost town in the state of West Virginia. The Newell Bridge is 111 years old. It's a toll bridge across the Ohio River. I hope they collect enough tolls to build a new bridge soon. I was a bit uneasy crossing on that bridge. I hadn't thought to pack a life jacket.
The Newell Bridge
You won't find the usual fast food chains in Newell, only a few Mom & Pop places to eat. It's an old town with a quaint look right on the Ohio River. The Fiesta factory is a large employer for the area. There were many, many visible employees just for the tent sale. It was a well orchestrated event from the security staff to the wrappers and packers, and there were no slackers.
Pennsylvania is close by and having never been there, I wanted to have a visit there, too. Google showed a shopping mall in the nearby state, only 15 miles from Newell. That was misleading, though. It took us almost an hour to drive that 15 miles. Small towns with 25 mph speed zones coupled with road construction can make a short trip long. Nevertheless, we were able to shop and have lunch in Pennsylvania.
So, the question remains, why drive 735 miles to shop for dishes when these same dishes can be bought locally and online? The answer is simple. It's the adventure of the hunt.
And, I'd do it again.